This story is about hamburgers. Nothing else, just hamburgers. If you think it's about something other than hamburgers, you are mistaken. This story is simply about hamburgers.
I am an honest-to-goodness stockholder in McDonald's Corporation (MCD on the New York Stock Exchange). Yes, that's right, the hamburger guys.
Because I'm a stockholder, I get things like annual reports, proxy statements, and I get to vote at stockholders meetings (although that generally takes place online). I even get letters from CEO and President Steve Easterbrook from time to time.
The rest of this story is fiction. Remember, it's about hamburgers. Nothing else.
Let's pretend for a moment I received my quarterly report and learned stocks had plummeted significantly. Further in the report, it was explained the reason for the decline was due to a drop in demand for hamburgers.
Shareholders had previously been told to expect a nice profit. So like many I was surprised to see a loss. The report went on to explain current research indicates college students and others in the 18-24 age range prefer sushi over hamburgers, thus resulting in an unexpected decline in the sale of the company's staple product.
Wanting to see for myself, I dropped by a local McDonald's and made my way to the counter. From the looks of the place, there really had been a downturn in demand. There was only one other customer in the store, and I had to wait for someone to come from the back to take my order.
"Looks like a quiet day," I said.
"Today is actually kind of busy," the teenager behind the counter responded.
I guess I must have missed the crowd, although it was 12:20, the peak of the lunch rush hour.
"I'll have a Number One," I blurted.
"OK," he said. "That's a McMaki with McMiso soup. Would you like hot tea or water?"
"Wait," I responded. "I thought Number One was a Big Mac with fries."
"Oh, we don't sell Big Macs anymore," he told me.
"OK, I'll take a Quarter Pounder," I told him.
"We don't have those, either," he said. "We took burgers off our menu a while back."
"Why would you take burgers off the menu?" I asked. "McDonald's is a burger restaurant."
He got quiet for a moment, then looked at me like I was a child asking where puppies come from.
"Studies indicate 18-24 year-olds prefer sushi over hamburgers. Sushi is quickly becoming the favorite fast food of Millennials."
"But most people aren't Millenials," I shot back.
"For decades, McDonald's has delivered award-winning hamburgers throughout the world," the young man told me. "We now recognize that we must transform even faster to meet the ever-changing demands of patrons in the Millenial world."
"But the place is empty," I told him.
"Yes, but we anticipate a significant upswing in the number of customers who order online," he answered smugly. "It's just a matter of time. We are creating synergy, utilizing the power of the Internet to transition to a more productive structure, maximizing streamlined resources and a reduced workforce which will result in record profits."
I admit, I was lost. Up until this quarter, I always made money on my McDonald's stock. Now, as a result of dropping burgers from the menu, I'm seeing a significant loss for the first time.
"You may still order a burger," said the young man, obviously noticing my dismay. "But you have to order a 'Package Meal.'"
"What comes with that?" I asked.
"Six types of sushi, rice, soup, daikon and tea." He paused, then continued, "Oh, and a hamburger."
"Can't I just order the hamburger?" I asked.
"No, we don't sell hamburgers alone. They only come in packages."
I was totally confused.
"Trust me," he added. "You'll be very full by the time you eat that. Much more full than if you ate a burger alone."
"Can I speak with your manager?" I asked.
"We don't have a manager any more," he told me. "We have a regional manager in Ohio. I don't think you can talk to her."
He just didn't get it. I didn't want sushi and a burger. I only wanted a burger. Finally, in despair, I headed over to Burger King to get some red meat.
"I'm sorry," answered the teenager at the counter. "We don't sell hamburgers since we were purchased by McDonald's."
"You can, however, get a hamburger as part of our "Package Meal," she added.
I guess the CEO of McDonald's was right. Nobody is eating hamburgers any more. I stopped by Wendy's. Same result. They had McMaki, but no burgers. Before walking away, I noticed the small golden arch on the employee's shirt pocket.
Last week, I traveled to visit my brother-in-law in a small town in Georgia. He took me by a local cafe, and I was surprised to see hamburgers on the menu.
"Why wouldn't hamburgers be on the menu?" he asked.
"Because nobody eats them any more," I told him. "Everybody eats sushi."
He laughed and ordered burgers for both of us. Wow, mine was good.
My brother-in-law introduced me to the owner on the way out. I asked him why he still had hamburgers on the menu.
"Why wouldn't I?" he asked. "They're my best seller."
I was confused. As I drove home from Georgia, I noticed small-town restaurants along the road, and most of them had burgers on their signs. Didn't they know?
Just 30 miles from my home in Knoxville, I stopped in Sweetwater, Tennessee, and had a burger at a local place. I spoke with the owner and told him about the burger situation in the big cities and suggested he might want to think about replacing burgers with sushi on his menu.
"But people love burgers around here. Why would I do that?" he asked.
I put on my best professor face. "Research indicates that Millenials prefer sushi over hamburgers," I told him.
"Who did the research?" he asked. "No one asked me."
His place was getting busy, and I said goodbye so he could take orders. I felt sorry for him. He had no idea how outdated his burger place had become.
None of this has taken place yet. I looked at my McDonald's stock just now, and it's up $2 so far today. I guess the burger thing is working right now.
Research does indicate, however, that 18-24 year-olds really like sushi. So I suppose it's just a matter of time before I won't be able to get a burger anymore.
Remember, this story is about hamburgers. Nothing else. Just hamburgers.